Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands - Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is a master storyteller.  Although I've only read one of his other books thus far (Trans-Sister Radio, which was INCREDIBLE!), I remember being absolutely captivated and swept away by the story.  The same thing happened to me with Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands.  I wish that I could have sat down and read bigger chunks of this story in one sitting, but I read it the same week that I was finishing up my coursework for school, so I stole small sections of the story while taking breaks from studying.

Emily's story deserves to be digested in one sitting.  It's heartbreaking, riveting and the kind of story that leaves you with an ache in the pit of your stomach because you want to reach into the story and save her.  After a nuclear meltdown at the plant where her parents work, Emily finds herself suddenly homeless.  The system would have taken her in, but she's afraid that she's going to be asked to testify that against her parents, as it's believed that her dad's alcoholism led to the disaster at the plant.  So instead she hits the road, determined to survive on her own.  The journey that she takes is difficult to read at times as she ultimately ends up living in an igloo made of frozen trash bags filled with leaves, with a nine-year-old boy named Cameron as her sole companion.

The narrative of the story is all over the place.  Emily is talking directly to the reader, but she's writing down her story and divides her experiences into B.C. (Before Cameron) and A.C. (After Cameron).  The plot is not told in a linear fashion and, as such, it may seem a bit disjointed to some readers, but I loved that I never knew which part of Emily's story would be told next -- would it be right after the meltdown, or weeks later, or months later?  Perhaps it's also this storytelling method that worked for me, given that I read it in small doses.

I have two more of Chris' novels sitting on my shelves, and I'm even more excited to read them now.  If you're a fan of Wally Lamb, you'll probably enjoy this book -- it's the same type of dark, powerful story with characters that leave a lasting impression long after the last page has been savoured.

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Edelweiss.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.


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